CDC: Excessive Alcohol Use Costs States Billions

Binge drinking accounts for the majority of costs related to excessive alcohol use.

These specialists practice tough love. Some move right in. But standards are nonexistent.

Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for 80,000 deaths in the United States each year. But aside from years of potential life lost, binge drinking can also cost states billions of dollars in collateral damage due to health care costs, increased crime and reduced worker productivity, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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In a previous study, CDC researchers found that excessive drinking in 2006 cost the country as a whole more than $223 billion. Branching off from that research, the center found that excessive alcohol use cost states about $2.9 billion each on average. State costs ranged from about $420 million in North Dakota to as high as $32 billion in California.

By comparison, the Tax Policy Center estimates that state and local taxes on alcoholic beverages brought in about $6 billion in revenue nationwide in 2010.

"Excessive alcohol consumption has a substantial, but largely under-recognized, economic impact on all states in the U.S.," the study says.

Researchers said the costs related to excessive drinking most often came from health care expenses, motor vehicle crash costs, property damage, decreased workplace productivity and criminal justice expenses.

Binge drinking, which the CDC defines as four or more drinks per occasion for a woman and five or more drinks for a man, accounted for more than 75 percent of costs related to excessive alcohol use in all states, just under $171 billion. Binge drinking is reported by about 18 percent of adults in America, according to the CDC.

In addition, excessive drinkers and their families paid less than half of the costs associated with high alcohol use – about 41.5 percent – while federal, state and local governments paid about 42 percent, or more than $94 billion, of the costs.

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"Excessive alcohol use has devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities, and the economy," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. "In addition to injury, illness, disease, and death, it costs our society billions of dollars through reduced work productivity, increased criminal justice expenses, and higher healthcare costs."

California far outpaced other states in all costs associated with excessive drinking, racking up a more than $3 billion bill for health care damages alone, followed by New York, at about $1.7 billion in health care costs. Excessive drinking also cost the Golden State nearly $24 billion in lost worker productivity, and nearly $5 billion for other costs associated with crime and property damage.

To allow for comparison across states, researchers adjusted the costs by population and number of drinks consumed, resulting in an average cost of $703 per person each year. The District of Columbia had the highest per-person cost at about $1,662, while Utah ranked at the bottom with a $578 per capita cost.

The researchers recommended that states increase alcohol taxes, limit the days and hours of sale and regulate the amount of alcohol in stores, bars and restaurants in order to reduce the economic costs to states.

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